Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. DOCILITY AS CONTRASTED WITH STUBBORNNESS. (Ver. 1.) Let us carry this into the distinctly religious sphere. To he wise is to be a good listener. In the expressive phrase of the Bible, to "hearken to the voice of Jehovah," to listen to the suggestions of the inward monitor, is the secret of a sober, well balanced habit of mind, and of every safe line of conduct. All that God teaches, by the voice of inspired teachers, by our own experience, by the inner revelations of the heart, is "a father's instruction." Above all, instruction by means of suffering is God's fatherly way with souls. And we have the great example of Christ to guide us and to sweeten obedience, for he "learned" it by the things which he suffered. On the other hand, the scorner has cast aside all reverential awe in the presence of the Holy One. To refuse the faithful warnings of friends, to be no better for those lessons of experience which are written in personal suffering, is to disown one's filial relation, and to estrange one's self from God.
II. TRUE LIFE ENJOYMENT AND ITS CONTROL. (Ver. 2.)
1. Enjoyment represented under the figure of eating. As indeed eating is a most significant act, the foundation of life. the pledge of social communism.
2. The foundation of enjoyment is in one's inward state and ones social relations. The more widely we can enter into the life of others, the richer our life joy. The unsocial life not only dries up the springs of joy, but is positively punished - in extreme cases by law, as in crimes of violence alluded to in the text, always by the alienation of sympathy.
1. In the lower aspect it is a lesson of prudence. Reserve and caution make the safe man; loquacity and impulsiveness of speech the unsafe man.
2. In a higher point of view, the habit of silence, implying much meditation and self-communion, is good for the soul.
"Sacred silence! thou that art offspring of the deeper heart, Frost of the mouth and thaw of the mind." How easy, on the other hand, to injure our souls by talking much about religion or subjects that lie on the circumference of religion, and falling into the delusion that talk may be substituted for life! - J.
I. THE WISDOM OF DOCILITY. The excellency of docility is seen in its results:
1. In character. It is a "wise son" who heareth his father's instruction.
(1) Already he is wise. Apart from all that he will gain by his teachableness, readiness to receive instruction is in itself an admirable feature of character; it is so more particularly in the young. In them it is positively essential to spiritual beauty and worth; and it goes a long way to constitute such worth. It is an attribute of mind which is pleasing to God, and which commends itself greatly to the esteem of man.
(2) It has the promise of wisdom further on. For he who is ready to learn, and more especially if he is willing to "regard reproof," is on the high road to much attainment in knowledge, and also to heights of virtue and godliness. This habit of his will save him from many snares, and will enrich his soul with pure principles and houourable aspirations and right affections.
2. In circumstance. The docile son will "be rewarded," will "be honored." The path he treads is one which leads to competence, to comfort, to health, to honour, to "a green old age." But there are three things which must be included in this readiness to learn. No one will be "wise," and no one can expect to reap these desirable results, unless he
(1) is docile in the home, receiving "his father's (and his mother's) instruction (ver. 1);
(2) has respect to the "commandment," the will of God as revealed in his Word (ver. 13);
(3) is willing to be corrected when he has gone astray, unless he "regards reproof" (ver. 18). For all of us fall into some error, make some mistakes, go astray in some directions; and we all need the kind hand that will lead us back and replace us in the right road.
II. THE FOLLY AND THE DOOM OF THE UNTEACHABLE. What should we think of the young captain who insisted on setting sail without any chart, trusting to his native cleverness to shun the shoals and rocks, and to make his way to port? We know what to judge concerning him, and what to prophesy concerning his vessel; we are sure that the one is a fool, and that the other will be a wreck. And what shall we think of youth when it resolves to sail forth on the great sea of life, disregarding the experiences of the wise, and trusting to its own sagacity? To take this course is:
1. To be unwise. Apart from all consequences which are in the future, it is the indication of a foolish spirit which is in itself deplorable. It shows a very ill-balanced judgment, a very exaggerated conception of one's own ability, a lack of the modesty the presence of which is so great a recommendation, and the absence of which is so serious a drawback. It calls for and it calls forth the pity of the wise; it is well if it does not elicit their contempt.
2. To move in the direction of disaster. It is to be in the way which conducts
(1) to the loss of much that is very valuable, to "poverty" of more kinds than one (ver. 18);
(2) to shame (ver. 18), the forfeiture of good men's regard, and a descent to a condition in which self-respect also is lost;
(3) to ultimate destruction (ver. 13). He that feareth not God's commandment, nor regards man's warning, is a candidate for contempt, is a swift traveller on the road to ruin. - C.
I. THE WORTH OF THIS WORLD'S GOODS IS ASSUMED. It is needless to show that property is a necessary institution of life under present conditions. All the strong things said in the gospel about riches do not dispute their value; it is in the relation of the spirit to them that evil arises. Their value as a means to the ends of the spirit is unquestioned, and everywhere assumed.
II. THE VANITY OF RICHES WITHOUT CORRESPONDING ACTION. Wishes are a great force in our nature (compare Mozley's sermon on the 'Power of Wishes'). Still, they have no practical effect unless they are transformed into will and into exertion of means to an end. It is the very characteristic of the fool that his mind evaporates in wishes; he is always desiring, but never at the pains to get anything. He is always idly expecting something to "turn up." This is a sheer superstition, a sort of clinging to the magical belief that the course of nature can be altered for one's private benefit. The lesson is, of course, equally applicable to higher things. "He would lain go to heaven if a morning dream would carry him there." He wishes to be good, to die the death of the righteous, but, at the same time, to continue in a way of life that can lead neither to the one nor to the other. Hell is paved with good intentions.
III. THE SECRET OF PROSPERITY IS DILIGENCE. Here desire is united with exertion, and it is an almost irresistible combination, as the careers of men who have risen constantly show. To conceive a good thing with such is to desire it; to desire it is to begin at once to work for it. This course must bring "rich satisfaction" - the satisfaction, by no means the least, of the pursuit, and the satisfaction in the end of entire or partial fruition. And so in moral and spiritual progress. We cannot overcome our weaknesses and sins by direct resistance, but we may react upon them by filling the mind with profitable matter of thought. The rich satisfaction depends in every case upon the same law; the personal energies must be aroused, and an object must be aimed at. Satisfaction is the complete joy of the mind in closing with and possessing a worthy and desirable object.
IV. THE CONCEIT OF RICHES IS NOT REAL RICHES. (Ver. 7; comp. Proverbs 12:9.) The saying may he directed against the foolish pride of birth and ostentation without anything real to back it up. It strikes a common vice of modern times - the aim to keep up appearances, and to pass for something greater in position than one really is. The contrasted example teaches the lesson of preferring the substance to the show, of being willing to appear much less than one is. And so in higher matters; take care to be what is sound and good in principle, and the seeming may be left for the most part to take care of itself. No appearances deceive God, and nothing that is real escapes him.
V. THE PRACTICAL SERVICE OF RICHES. (Ver. 8.) They may provide a ransom from captivity, from penal judgment, from the hand of robbers. Their power to procure deliverances from the evils of life is much wider in the present day. The poor man, on the contrary, "listens to no rebuke," i.e. no threats can extort from him what he has not got. He is helpless for want of means. A lesson not often taught from the pulpit, and perhaps not needed for the majority - prudent regard to the possible advantages of money, stimulating to industry in the quest for it. Still, some do need the lesson. And the Bible has no affectation of a false contempt for the means of living. Business men should be encouraged in their pursuit of wealth, and guided in their application of it.
VI. WEALTH ONLY PERMANENT WHEN WELL-GOTTEN. (Ver. 11.) Perhaps the, translation to be preferred is, "Swindled wealth becomes small." Hastily gotten generally means hastily spent. And dishonest gain burns the fingers. How often do we see a feverish passion for spending going hand in hand with unlawful or unhealthy getting! A healthy acquisition of wealth is gradual, and the result of steady industry. Rapid fortune making, or sudden "strokes of luck," are certainly not to be envied in view of the good of the soul.
1. Wealth is a good in itself. When we speak of it as an evil, we are using a certain figure of speech; for the evil is in the false relation of the soul to this as to other earthly objects.
2. In the desires that relate to wealth, their proper control and direction, the moral discipline probably of the majority must ever lie.
3. Safety is to be found in the religious habit, which sees in earthly objects good only as they can be connected with that which is beyond themselves, and is Divine and eternal. - J.
I. AVERSION FROM ALL UNTRUTH A LEADING CHARACTER OF PURITY. This does not imply that the good man never falls into acts or words which are untrue to his nature. But as a child of God, there is in his spiritual or ideal nature a rooted antipathy to lies, and a deep sympathy with truth in all its forms. 'Tis only truthfulness which can impart fragrance, charm, delight, to character.
II. THE CONTRARY DISPOSITION OF THE WICKED IS LOATHSOME AND SHAMEFUL. Antipathy to truth - and, alas! perversion may actually bring men to this - produces upon the pure moral taste an impression akin to that of nausea or deformity upon the physical sensibility. And we blush for it as a common odium and disgrace of human nature. - J.
I. UPRIGHTNESS IS THE DESIGNATION OF BOTH AN INWARD AND AN OUTWARD STATE.
1. As a sensuous image, uprightness suggests strength, confidence, well grounded stability.
2. As a figure of the mind and character, it denotes moral principle, fixed purpose, based upon firm faith in God and his moral order.
3. Its consequence is a state of security amidst danger, freedom from evil.
II. WICKEDNESS AND RUIN ARE INTERCHANGEABLE THOUGHTS.
1. The ruin begins in the inward decay of moral principle.
2. It is consummated in outward decay - of reputation, of possessions, of health, of life. - J.
I. THE GUILT OF CONVEYING A FALSE VIEW OF OURSELVES; whether this be done by the merchant in his office, or by the charlatan on the platform, or by the quack in his surgery, or by the preacher in his pulpit, or by the "philanthropist" in the newspaper, or by the man or woman of embellishment in society, or by the artist on canvas, or by the author in his book, or whether done by the common miser or the conscienceless beggar. Here is the double iniquity of:
1. Falsehood, or, at any rate, falseness. The man is false to himself, and forgets what is due to himself; consequently, he does that which wrongs and injures himself.
2. Fraud; imposture. A man practises on his neighbours; he deceives them; in the worst cases he induces others to run most serious risks to their health or their fortune.
II. THE MISFORTUNE OF FORMING A WRONG ESTIMATE OF OURSELVES.
1. This is sometimes an appropriate penalty. For if a man "makes himself" rich or poor in the eyes of others, it is extremely likely that he will before long imagine himself to be so. It is one of the well attested facts of human experience, that what men try to persuade their fellows to think, they come in time to believe themselves. And this holds good when the object as well e,s the subject is the man himself. Try to convince others that you are clever, learned, kind, pious, and before many months have been spent in the endeavour you will actually credit yourself with these qualities. And the result is an entirely mistaken view of yourself. This is a punitive consequence; for there is no moral condition from which we have such urgent need to pray and strive that we may be delivered. Is it not the last stage on the downward road?
2. It is a grave spiritual peril. Solemn, indeed, is the warning addressed by the risen Lord to the Church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-19). But no warning can be too serious or too strong, whether addressed to the Church or the individual, when there is a false estimate of self, a supposition of wealth which is but imaginary, a false confidence which, if not awakened now, will be terribly aroused and shattered further on.
3. But a false estimate of ourselves may be, not a penalty, but rather a pity. When the heart thinks itself (makes itself) poor and destitute, while it is really "rich toward God," it suffers as it need not suffer, and it lacks the strength for doing good which it need not lack. And this is not unfrequently the case. Men have been misinstructed concerning the kingdom of Christ; and long after they have been within it they have been supposing themselves to stand outside it. Wherefore let those who teach take care how they teach, and let all disciples "take heed how they hear," that they may not think themselves wrong when they are right with God, rebels against the Divine Ruler when they are his accepted children. - C.
I. LIGHT IS THE SYMBOL OF JOY.
II. HENCE THE CHEERFUL BURNING OF A LIGHT IS THE SYMBOL OF THE GOOD MAN'S HEART. He sits in the centre and enjoys clear day.
III. GLOOM IS THE NATURAL EMBLEM OF SORROW.
IV. THE PUTTING OUT OF A LAMP IN DARKNESS IS THE EMBLEM OF THE EXTINCTION OF JOY, OF HOPE - Of all that makes life worth having, and of life itself. - J.
I. PRIDE BEGETS CONTROVERSY, WHICH CAN SELDOM BE CARRIED ON LONG WITHOUT DEGENERATING INTO EGOTISM.
1. There is contention for contention's sake, which is ever idle and baneful.
2. There is contention for truth's sake. But in the latter lie many dangers to purity of temper. Whenever we become angry in controversy, as a great man said, we cease to contend for the truth, and begin to contend for ourselves. - J.
I. HOPE DELAYED. Who has not known that sickness of the heart, that slow-consuming misery of which the text speaks? It is a sorrow of every age. Life itself is by some spent in this still lingering delay. The stern experience of the course of the world teaches us that the sentimental and romantic view of the future, so natural to youth, must give way to realities.
II. HOPE DELAYED IS THE TRAIL OF FAITH. The duration of the trial rather than the intensity is painful. So with Abraham in reference to Isaac (Genesis 15:2, 3).
III. THERE IS A LOVING PROVIDENTIAL MEANING AT THE HEART OF THESE TRIALS, They are essentially time trials; they have an end - the "end of the Lord." So the boy named "Laughter" came to Abraham; so the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, and the delivered Were like unto them that dream! So Simeon could sing his Nunc dimittis on the appearance of the long expected Saviour; and on his resurrection the disciples "believed not for joy, and wondered."
Proverbs 13:12, with ver. Proverbs 13:9 (first part) and ver. Proverbs 13:19 (first part)
I. HOPE IS PLANTED AS AN INSTINCT IN THE HUMAN HEART, "Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts," says the psalmist (Psalm 22:9). We start on our course with a precious store of hopefulness in our soul; and it takes much to kill or to exhaust it. It lasts most men through life, though the troublous experiences we pass through weaken it, if they do not wound it unto death.
II. IT IS A SOURCE OF GREAT STRENGTH AND JOY TO US.
1. It is a source of strength to us. It leads us to entertain and to enter upon new ventures. It carries us on during many toils and through many difficulties. It sustains us to the end, when we are weary, and when we are opposed and baffled. "We are saved by hope."
2. It is also a perennial source of joy. Rob life of its anticipations, and you deprive it of a very large proportion of its sweetness and satisfaction.
III. SIN HAS INTRODUCED DISAPPOINTMENT. We must regard this as one part, and one very serious part, of the penalty of sin. Not, of course, that each case of disappointment is the consequence of some particular antecedent wrong doing; but that it forms a part of that whole burden and trial of life which is the mark and the penalty of human sin. There are lighter disappointments which may not count for much, though these put together would make up no small aggregate of evil. But there are heavier disappointments which constitute a very large and serious part of our life sorrow. "Hope deferred" does indeed make the heart sick. The long and weary waiting for the return of the absent; for the manifestation of love ungratefully, and perhaps cruelly, withheld; for the health and strength which no treatment will restore; for the opening which would prove a great opportunity; for the signs of reformation in a beloved relative or friend; for the relenting and reconciliation of one who has been long estranged; - this does fill the soul with an aching such as no other trouble brings. It is one of life's very heaviest burdens. It is sometimes the burden and even the blight of a human life.
IV. IT IS THE PART OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM TO AVERT IT. Not that it can be wholly averted - that is quite beyond our power. Not that there is any real blessing in the absence or the littleness of expectation. But that:
1. We should discourage and renounce the perilous and injurious habit of idle day dreams.
2. We should moderate our hopes according to our circumstances, and be contented only to look for that which, in the providence of God, we may reasonably and rightly expect to partake of.
V. IT IS THE PART OF CHRISTIAN SUBMISSION TO ACCEPT IT. We must suffer when our hopes are unfulfilled; but we may find great relief in the though; that it is the will of God that we are submitting to. The feeling that it is our Divine Friend who is letting us pass through the dark shadow of disappointment, and that it is the holy Lord seeking our highest good who is sending us through the refining fires, - this will give balm to our wounded spirit; this will lighten the heavy load we bear.
VI. GOD WILL GIVE HIS PEOPLE SOME GOOD MEASURE OF FULFILMENT. We shall prove by our experience in many ways and in many spheres - particularly in those of
(1) our inner life and
(2) our work for our Lord - that "the light of the righteous rejoiceth," that "when desire cometh, it is a tree of life," that "desire accomplished is sweet to the soul." If we rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, he will give us our heart's desires (Psalm 37:4, 7).
VII. THERE IS ONE SUPREME HOPE which may well sustain us in the darkest trials (1 Peter 1:3, 4). - C.
I. REVERENCE AND IRREVERENCE FOR THE DIVINE WORD. The "Word" is any revelation man receives of God, whether through nature, oracles of the prophets, or in his immediate consciousness. The last, in the deepest sense, is the condition of all other revelations. Irreverence is shown either when men are deaf and indifferent to the Divine voice, or when they suffer it to be out-clamoured by other voices - of passion, policy, etc. The result is that he who thus sins is "pledged" or forfeited to the Divine Law, here personified or regarded as a superhuman power. Hence appears the truth from this figure, that in disobedience our freedom is lost. On the contrary, reverence and obedience receive a certain reward: "Glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good" (Romans 2:10).
II. THE DOCTRINE OF THE WISE. (Ver. 14.) The teaching that is founded on Divine revelation is a source of life, and a safeguard against the snares of death (comp. Proverbs 10:11).
III. THERE MUST BE RECEPTIVITY TOWARDS THIS. DOCTRINE. The Word must be "mixed with faith in those that hear." The favour of God is free in one sense, i.e. is no earned result of our conduct; but it is conditional in another, viz. it depends on our compliance with his will. The contrast to the life in the light of God's favour, watered by vital nourishment from the springs of truth, is the "way of the faithless," which is "barren," dry, as in "a dry and thirsty land where no water is."
IV. PRUDENCE AND GOOD COUNSEL MUST BE ADDED TO REVERENCE. (Ver. 16.) Thougtfulness is Deeded in studying the evidences, the substance, the applications of religion. And in the practical conduct of life how necessary! for more errors are committed for want of judgment and discrimination as to time, place, and circumstances, than for want of true and right purpose. The man destitute of tact pours folly abroad; temper, vanity, caprice, are exposed in all that he does and says.
V. FAITHFUL AND UNFAITHFUL MINISTRY. (Ver. 17.) The wicked messenger prepares misfortune both for his master and for himself; while the faithful servant will amend even his master's mistakes. Applied to sacred things, every Christian should consider himself a messenger, an apostle in however humble a sphere, of God and his truth. And "it is required of stewards that they be found faithful." - J.
I. THE BLESSINGS OF OBEDIENCE.
1. Honour. (Ver. 18.) "'Tis a good brooch to wear in a man's hat at all times," says one of our old poets. Love is common to all the creatures, as life and death; honour belongs to men alone; and dishonour must be worse than death. The praise of others is the refiection of virtue, and a good name like flagrant ointment.
2. Satisfied desire. (Ver. 19.) And what is sweeter than the attainment of worthy "ends and expectations"? And if we will but have faith, this satisfaction may be ours, by setting our hearts on internal blessings, the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
3. Improving companionship. (Ver. 20.) Friendship with the wise makes daylight in the understanding out of darkness and confusion of thoughts. Our wits and understanding clarify and break up in communicating and discoursing with one another. "We toss our thoughts more easily, marshal them more soberly; see how they look when turned into words; we wax wiser than ourselves, and that more by an hour's discourse than by a day's meditation" (Lord Bacon).
4. Unfailing compensations. All things are double, one against another. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, on the one side; measure for measure, love for love, on the other. "Give, and it shall be given you;" "He that watereth shall be watered himself." "What will you have?" saith God; "pray for it, and take it." "if you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more. Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the payment is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on. compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer."
5. Hereditary good. (Ver. 22.) We desire to prolong our blessings, in the view of fancy, beyond our lives; and the desire to leave behind a fortune, or a name and fame, is one of the most common and natural. The thought that all the good our life has produced wilt be still a germinant power with our descendants after we are gone, is one of the noblest and most inspiring.
6. Fruitful poverty. (Ver. 23.) The image is that of the poor man's field, which becomes rich in produce through the investment of his toil in it. The improvement of the ground is the most natural way of obtaining riches; it is our great mother's blessing, the earth. The blessing of God visibly rests upon the behest labour of the poor.
7. Wise training of the young. (Ver. 24.) The rod may stand as a figure for all correction, firm yet kindly discipline, and instruction. The wise father will seek to anticipate moral evil by subduing early the passionate temper. He will incessantly follow up his child with prayer, with discipline, with exhortations, that he may not later rue the absence of seasonable warnings.
8. Temperate enjoyment and sufficient supplies. (Ver. 25.) The mind governed by religion and wisdom learns to reduce its wants to a small compass; and this is a great secret of content and of true riches. He who wants only what is necessary for the life and free action of the soul may rely with confidence on the infinite bounty of Providence.
II. THE COUNTERPART.
1. Poverty and shame. (Ver. 18.) The one an outward misery, patent to all; the other not so patent, but more acute; for contempt, as the Indian proverb says, pierces through the shell of the tortoise. So long ago as old Homer, we find the sentiment, "Shame greatly hurts or greatly helps mankind" ('Iliad,' 24:45; Hesiod, 'Op.,' 316). "Take one of the greatest and most approved courage, who makes nothing to look death and danger in the face,...in a base and a shameful action, and the eye of the discoverer, like that of the basilisk, shall strike him dead. So inexpressibly great sometimes are the killing horrors of this passion" (South, vol. 2. ser. 7.). The Bible designates this as a peculiar fruit of sin.
2. The unquenchable fire of lust. (Ver. 19.) To this the correct rendering of the second member of the verse appears to point (James 1:14, 15). 'Tis hard to give up the bosom sin, which still in better moments is hated - a loathsome tyranny, yet one which cannot be cast off.
3. Depraving companionship. (Ver. 20.) Wicked companions invite to hell. "There are like to be short graces when the devil plays the host."
4. Haunting troublers. (Ver. 21.) Much romance has been woven about "haunted houses;" but what haunted house so gruesome as the bad man's heart? His sin draws God's wrath and punishments after it, even as the shadows follow his feet.
5. Forfeited wealth. (Ver. 22.) Riches that come from the devil go back to him. Fraud, oppression, and unjust dealing are not really retentive; or wealth obtained by flattering, complying with others' humours, and servility does not prosper. The Proverbs see the outrush of life with great clearness; they do not always explain the inner connection of cause and effect, which should be clear to us.
6. Self-destruction. (Ver. 23.) Many a man is "carried away by his unrighteousness." "In contrast with the contented, humble condition of the good man, the selfish and profligate 'lovers of themselves without a rival,' are often unfortunate; and whereas they have all their time sacrificed to themselves, they become in the end themselves sacrifices to the inconstancy of fortune, whose wings they thought by their self-wisdom to have pinioned" (Lord Bacon).
7. Weak indulgence to children. (Ver. 24.) A most injurious error. It tends to weaken the young minds and foster all the violent passions; just as the opposite extreme tends to debase and incite to deceit. E. Irving, in one of his works, hints that a great proportion of the inmates of lunatic asylums have been only and spoilt children.
8. Want. (Ver. 25.) "Great wants," it has been said, "proceed from great wealth; but they are undutiful children, for they sink wealth down to poverty." - J.
all, but especially to the young.
I. GOD HAS GIVEN US GREAT POWER OVER ONE ANOTHER. There are two sources of power we exercise.
1. That of ideas. As we speak or write to one another, we impart ideas to the mind; and as thought lies beneath feeling, and feeling beneath character and conduct (see homily on Proverbs 12:5), it is clearly of the gravest consequence what ideas we do instil into the mind of another. These ideas include information or knowledge, the presentation of motive and inducement, new aspects in which things are regarded, new views and conceptions of life, etc.
2. That of influence. As we associate with one another, we influence one another by
(1) the character which commands respect;
(2) affectionateness of disposition;
(3) charm of manner;
(4) strength of will;
(5) superiority in age or in social position;
(6) facility and force of utterance.
All these are elements of influence; they are sometimes united, and in combination they become a great moral force.
II. CLOSENESS OF INTIMACY SHOWS THIS POWER AT ITS HEIGHT. When two "walk together because they are agreed;" when there is a close and intimate union of heart. with heart, of mind with mind, - there is an opening for the exertion of a power immeasurably great. Friendship has done more than anything else to enlarge or to warp the mind, to save or to betray the soul, to bless or to corrupt the life. The influence of a beloved friend or of a favourite author is wholly beyond calculation, and is almost beyond exaggeration. We give ourselves to one another; we impress our mind upon one another; we draw one another up or we drag one another down. Hence -
III. IT IS OF SUPREME IMPORTANCE THAT WE CHOOSE OUR FRIENDS WELL. The friendships we form will either make or mar us. We shall certainly be conformed in spirit and in character to those whom we admit to the sanctuary of our soul; our lives will move with theirs toward the same goal; and we shall share their destiny for good or evil. How needful, then, that we bring to this choice our whole intelligence, our greatest care, that we do not let the accidents of locality or family connection or business association decide the intimacies of our life! There is no action on which our future more decisively depends than on this choice we make; let youth and young manhood (womanhood) look well to it. He that walketh with wise men will himself be wise, and he will reap all the fruits of wisdom; but the companion of fools, of those who fear not God and who honour not man, of the irreligious and the immoral, will be destroyed with a terrible, because a spiritual, destruction.
IV. HOW WISE TO WALK THE PATH OF LIFE WITH A. DIVINE FRIEND! - with him who himself is "the Wisdom of God;" intimacy with whom will draw our spirit up toward all that is worthiest and noblest; whose presence will ensure guardianship from all serious evil, and enrichment with every true blessing, and will gladden with all pure and lasting joy. - C.
I. SIN AND SUFFERING ARE INSEPARABLY ASSOCIATED IN THOUGHT, In our judgment and in our feeling they go together; they belong to one another. There is no need to go beyond this point; it is ultimate. If we sin, we deserve to suffer, and must expect to suffer. It is right that we should, and the hand that brings it about is a righteous hand.
11. THEY OFTEN SEEM TO BE DIVIDED IN FACT. As we observe human life, we see that the murderer sometimes escapes the reach of law, that the swindler sometimes flourishes upon the losses of his victims, that the tyrant sometimes reigns long over the nation he has defrauded of its freedom, that sometimes the man who lives in the practice of vice continues to enjoy health for many years, that the dishonest author may reap a considerable reputation and may long remain unexposed, etc. but in this case -
III. PENALTY IS PURSUING SIN AND WILL OVERTAKE IT. "Evil pursueth sinners" Justice is on the track, and sooner or later will lay its hand upon its victim.
1. It will most likely do so here. Very frequently, indeed almost always, some penalty immediately overtakes guilt; if not in bodily loss or suffering, yet in spiritual injury. And if not at once, penalty soon follows crime, vice, wrong doing. Or if not soon, yet after many years, the "evil" comes and lays its stern hand upon the shoulder. The man may not, probably does not, see or even believe in its approach. Its step is silent, and it may be slow, but it is constant and certain. The "evil" may be physical, and very of, on it is so; or it may be mental, intellectual; or it may be circumstantial; or it may be in reputation; or it may be in character, and this last, though least seen and often least regarded, is in truth the saddest and the most serious of all, for it affects the man himself - he "loses his own soul." Thus, "though leaden-footed," penalty is "iron-handed."
IV. THERE IS ONE MERCIFUL INTERCEPTION. If we truly repent of our sin, we shall be freely and abundantly forgiven.
1. God will change his condemnation into acceptance and parental favour, so that we shall walk thenceforward in the light of his countenance.
2. He will avert the heavier consequences of our sin by introducing into our heart and life all the remedial and restorative influences of righteousness. And there must be considered -
V. THE CONVERSE BENEFICENT LAW AFFECTING THE RIGHTEOUS. "To the righteous good shall be repaid."
1. All right acts are immediately followed by an inner and spiritual blessing; we must be something the better in soul forevery really right thing we do.
2. All right actions, done in a reverent and filial spirit, will bring God's blessing down further on. He is "not unrighteous to forget our work of faith and our labour of love." Such blessings come in many forms, and at various intervals; but they do come; they are following the upright, and they will overtake them and cream them.
I. THE PARENTAL INSTINCT.
1. This is, to let the child have his way; to give him the gratification be desires, to find a present pleasure in his momentary happiness.
2. This is, to spare him suffering. No parent can hear his child cry without suffering himself (herself). Our instinct is to save our children from every trouble, small and great, from which we can exempt them. And it "goes against the grain" to inflict punishment, to cause pain, to deprive of some known enjoyment. But we dare not be blind to -
II. THE LESSON OF EXPERIENCE. Universal experience proves that to act on mere parental instruct is nothing less than selfish cruelty. It is to act as if we positively hated our children. For it is the one sure way to spoil them for life, to ruin their character. The undisciplined child becomes the wayward boy, the dissipated young man, the wreck of manhood. He becomes self-centred, incapable of controlling his spirit, exacting in all his relations, disregardful of all law and of all claims. It is to withhold the one condition under which alone we can expect any one to attain to an admirable and honourable manhood. It is to deny to our own children the most essential element of education. Experience proves that he who spares the rod acts as if he positively hated his son.
III. THE PRACTICE OF WISDOM. This is the well-moderated correction of love. This correction should be:
1. Carefully proportioned to the offence; the lighter ones, such as carelessness or inaptitude, being followed by the lighter rebuke, and the graver ones, such as falsehood or cruelty, being visited with severer measures.
2. Administered, not in the heat of temper, but in the calmness of conviction, and with the manifest sorrow of true affection.
3. As free as possible from physical violence. The "rod" need not be made of wood or iron. A look of reproach (Luke 22:61), a just rebuke or remonstrance, a wisely chosen exclusion from some appreciated privilege, may do much more good than any blows upon the body.
4. Strictly just, with a leaning to charitable construction. For one unjust infliction will do more harm than many just ones will do good.
5. Occasional and of brief duration. Nothing defeats its own purpose more certainly than perpetual fault- finding, or constantly repeated punishment, or penalty that is unrighteously severe. It behoves us always to remember that as our heavenly Father does not "deal with us after our sins" with rigorous penalties, and is not "strict to mark iniquity" with unfailing chastisement, so it becomes us, as parents, in the treatment of our children, to let pity and charity have a very large, modifying influence on our correction. He that loveth chastens "betimes;" he is not always chastening. He takes care to let his children know and feel that beneath and above and throughout his fatherly righteousness is his parental love. - C.